Six months after the unexpected death of Pastor Darrin Patrick from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, his wife Amie Patrick appeared on the The Pastors Collective podcast to share what she has been learning about grief and God’s faithfulness.
“We are still left with not really having answers, which is difficult in many ways,” said Amie Patrick, commenting on the suddenness of her husband’s death. But she pointed out that even in situations where someone commits suicide and leaves more of an explanation, such as a note, “We still really don’t know what’s going on in a person’s mind.”
“I’ve had to accept a level of mystery,” she said. “That has been really, really important for me in the process of moving forward. I think there are a lot of things in life that we just, we will never have answers for in this life.” While Amie “could go crazy” trying to understand why Darrin took his own life, instead she has had to make a conscious decision to accept that suffering is unexplainable. “I will say there is a peace in that,” she added.
Amie Patrick and Her Family Process a Tragedy
Darrin Patrick was a teaching pastor at Seacoast Church in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. He died on May 7, 2020, while he was target shooting with a friend. After his death, Amie, who was married to Darrin for 26 years, wrote on Facebook, “We are heartbroken beyond belief, terribly confused, and missing Darrin in ways that feel unbearable.” The pastor’s death was officially ruled a suicide on July 2.
Darrin co-founded The Pastors Collective podcast with Greg Surratt, Seacoast’s founding pastor, with the goal of helping pastors and church leaders navigate the challenges they face in ministry. Amie appeared on the podcast on Nov. 3, where she told Surratt, “I think we’re doing about as well as could be expected.” She said that she and her children talk about Darrin a lot and process their feelings often. They are all going to counseling about once a week, and that has been “an enormously helpful place to process the journey of grief.”
Another major benefit to the family throughout this “messy and complicated and unpredictable” journey has been the thoughtful and supportive people in their community. “You can’t say enough I think about needing healthy people in your life in the grief process,” said Amie. “Books are great, resources are great—people are where it’s at.”
Small, consistent gestures of love have been incredibly meaningful to her. For example, an anonymous person recently dropped off a bag of coffee. Every few weeks, someone else anonymously sends a small gift from Amazon. There are three or four people who regularly send Amie a text just to tell her that they are thinking of her and praying for her. They don’t ask for an update or expect her to talk about her grief, she said. “They just continue to check in with me in ways that feel very real and honest, and I believe them. I believe that they are actually praying for me when they let me know that.”
Amie Patrick: An Education in Grief
Amie Patrick has herself had experiences in ministry where she had no idea what to say to someone who was grieving and could only pray that God would help her. Now, based on her own situation, she thinks the best words to say are, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” She also recommends not trying to overly identify with someone else’s grief, but to gauge your response according to the depth of your relationship with them. She said, “I have really appreciated the people who have said, ‘I have no idea what to say.’” That’s an appropriate response because what she is going through is “beyond words.”
Surratt wanted to know what Amie has learned about herself as a result of going through this tragedy. “A lot of things,” she said. “I’ve learned that I am more resilient than I perhaps thought that I was.” She explained she was not saying she was fine or that she had it all together. But her experience has been that “the years that you put into walking with the Lord make a difference when life really hits you in terrible and traumatic ways, and so I have found that my faith has held up and that God has held up.” While there is support that only God provides in a time of suffering, she discovered that she had developed strength over time that she was not aware of until it was tested.
Another lesson has been, “Grief is slow. It’s a very slow process. And I think one of the most challenging things for me is to just let it be slow.” When Amie gets discouraged and impatient with wanting to move on to her “new normal” faster, something that helps her is simply to be aware of how she is feeling. And God gives her the ability to do the tasks of daily life, one step at a time.
“God has been very real and present in all kinds of ways,” said Amie. She has always been aware of his presence in her life, but has never sensed God’s closeness as “acutely” as she has lately. And while there is no doubt that what she and her family are going through is unspeakable, she has learned that being willing to embrace the mystery of suffering “is also a way that we more fully embrace God…I think we often want clarity and God wants to give us himself.”
When Surratt asked how people can continue to help support Amie and her children as they grieve, she said they always appreciate notes of encouragement, but they are especially grateful for people’s prayers. “We feel your prayers,” she said. “We feel it, we feel the impact of that, we feel the weight of it in a positive way, and so, please keep that coming, please continue to pray for us.”